Vertebral Compression Fracture

(Fracture, Vertebral Compression)

Definition

A vertebral compression fracture is a break in one of the bones of the spine. It most common in the bones that are at chest level.

Vertebral Fracture

factsheet image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

Osteoporosis is the most common cause. Weakened bones are more likely to break from:

  • Everyday actions, such as coughing, sneezing, or lifting light objects
  • Falling from a chair
  • Tripping

Other causes may be:

  • Trauma from:
    • A steep fall
    • A motor vehicle accident
    • A sports accident
    • Violence
  • Bone cancer

Risk Factors

A fracture caused by osteoporosis is more common in women who have been through menopause. A fracture caused by trauma is more common in young men.

Other things that may raise the risk are:

Symptoms

Most people do not have symptoms. Those who do may have:

  • Mild to severe pain in the middle or lower back
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness
  • Problems walking

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the spine.

Images may be taken. This can be done with:

Treatment

Underlying causes will need to be treated. The goal of treatment is to manage pain and help with healing. Options depend on the severity of the fracture. Choices are:

  • Over the counter or prescription pain relievers
  • A back brace
  • Physical therapy to help with strength, flexibility, and range of motion

Some people may need surgery. Choices are:

  • Vertebroplasty —Liquid cement is injected into the bone to ease pain and restore movement.
  • Kyphoplasty —A balloon-like device is used to create a small space in the bone near the fracture. The cement is injected into the space.
  • Spinal fusion —Two or more bones are joined together in the spine.

Prevention

Treating or preventing osteoporosis can lower the risk of this problem.

RESOURCES:

National Institutes of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
https://www.niams.nih.gov
National Osteoporosis Foundation
https://www.nof.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Orthopaedic Association
http://coa-aco.org
Women's College Hospital—Women's Health Matters
http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca

References:

McCarthy J, Davis A. Diagnosis and Management of Vertebral Compression Fractures. Am Fam Physician. 2016 Jul 1;94(1):44-50.
Thoracolumbar vertebral compression fracture. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/thoracolumbar-vertebral-compression-fracture. Accessed January 28, 2021.
Vertebral compression fractures. American Association of Neurological Surgeons website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed January 28, 2021.
Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty. Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=vertebro. Accessed January 28, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS
Last Updated: 1/28/2021

EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at healthlibrarysupport@ebsco.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.

advertisement